Video services

FCC Makes Waiver Waves

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken action on a batch of waiver requests from operators that had sought continued use of digital set-tops with integrated security. The so-called "integration ban" went into effect last July and forced most operators to buy and deploy only set-tops with removable, CableCARD-based security. (See Countdown to 'Seven-Oh-Seven', Son of 'Waiver Central' , and CableCARD Update IV .)

  • Three operators -- James Cable LLC, RCN Corp. , and WideOpenWest Holdings LLC (WOW) -- were granted waiver extensions good through January 31, 2009, primarily on the basis of "ongoing financial hardship."

    Among the group, RCN has also told the FCC that it plans to go all-digital across the board by June 2009, a move that has drawn favorable rulings by the agency since the ban went into effect last summer. (See Verizon & Others Get Their Waivers.)

    Depending on the operator, the extended waivers apply to several Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) set-top models with integrated security, including the DCT700, DCT1000, DCT2500, DCT-2000, DSR-410, and DSR 470, and four Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) Explorer set-top models: the 2100, 2200, 3100, and 3200.

    And the extentions will likely stop there. "We do not expect to grant further waivers unless a Petitioner presents an exceptional reason that it will be unable to comply with the integration ban after January 31, 2009," the FCC noted in the order.

  • In a separate order issued this week, the FCC also "dismissed as moot" a deferral request from another eight operators -- Adams Cable TV, Crestview Cable Communications, LocalTel Communications, Rainbow Communications, Polar Cablevision, WaveBroadband, WEHCO Video Inc, and Sunflower Broadband .

    Those operators had earlier requested deferrals because they did not expect to receive "compliant" set-tops (i.e., those with removable CableCARD slots paired with the CableCARD module) from their respective suppliers by the original July 1, 2007, deadline. The FCC declared the earlier requests "moot" because those operators have shown records indicating that they now have access to compliant boxes.

  • In a third order, the FCC granted waivers to Waitsfield Cable and Tri-County Communications on the condition that they migrate their systems to all-digital by Feb. 17, 2009, the same date as the DTV transition for high-power broadcast television stations. Those operators have until July 19 to file a sworn declaration with the FCC Media Bureau that they intend to hit the prescribed agency deadline.

  • And, in case you're wondering, the FCC did not grant a set-top waiver to Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK). Not that you should be expecting one anytime soon, of course. (See Comcast Denied Set-Top Waiver (Again).)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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